***Warning! This review contains spoilers from the previous book in the series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***
To see my review of book #1 – Silk & Steel – Click HERE
Total Star Rating:4.5 Stars
‘Because…’ he said, ‘in the one place I expected to die, you gave me a reason to live.‘“
– Ariana Nash, “Iron & Fire”
What It’s About:
The official blurb:
Alliances are forged and broken, friendships shattered, and despite the odds stacked against them, two hearts collide in this explosive sequel to Silk & Steel.
From his mother’s cage to a human one, but Lysander’s captors are the least of his concerns. Rumors of a monstrous bronze dragon ripple through human camps, a dragon tearing great holes in the world as though searching for something… or someone.
It’s just a matter of time before the bronze chief, Dokul, finds Lysander and makes good on his promises. And should he find him, Lysander knows Dokul will not be merciful.
Amidst the greatest of elven victories, Eroan failed. Failed his people, failed himself, and failed the dragon who saved him. But he will not falter. The dragonkin are in disarray, there will never be a greater opportunity to strike. Eroan Ilanea will not fail his people again.
But when rumors of the dragon prince’s survival reach him, he must choose: Fight for his people or fight for the prince who nobody thought to save?
***Contains adult themes, triggering content, a bisexual elf, and a gay dragon shifter.***
This book got even better than the first book; no second book syndrome in sight!
The story continues right after how the previous book ended, and what heartache we must face as Lysander and Eroan were tragically separated and Eroan later believes he sent the dragon shifter to his death with the humans. But really, the Dragon lord, Dokul, knows he’s still alive and is after him still.
Again, I’m shocked how much I enjoy this story because it’s a gay romance Game of Thrones—Gay of Thrones?—and the sexual tension and overall development between them and their relationship is done so spectacularly well, It was by far the biggest driving force that kept my eyes glued to the page and seeing what possibly happened next. I loved it whenever they reunited and was sad whenever they got separated again and again.
The worldbuilding more or less stayed the same, not much really changed in that regard, but the world still remained so brutalistic and violent and harsh as everyone is doing whatever is necessary to come out on top of this game of thrones. We have Lysander’s brother Akiem popping up and causing destruction whenever he appears, Dokul and Mirann are also still like a dragon-shifter version of Cersei and Tywin Lannister, and Seraph is still Eroan’s best friend and kind of being like an elven Arya in her way too.
Lysander continues to be the MVP of these books, but also the one who unfortunately gets the most abuse out of the characters…like, holy moly does he really get put through the wringer, and my heart aches for him because deep down he really just wants to find a place to belong and not feel like a waste of space. He feels that with Eroan and has such a deep connection with him, but of course the forbidden aspect of their romance makes that plenty complicated too. BUT they really fight for their relationship and did what they can, plus there was a ton more steam and spice between them this time too!
‘What is this thing between us?‘
Eroan’s chin rubbed his head and when he spoke, his voice rumbled through Lysander. ‘It is everything.‘“
– Ariana Nash, “Iron & Fire”
What I Liked:
The Sexual Tension Between Lysander & Eroan! There was way more romance with these two in this second book, which made the overall storyline sooooooooooo much more interesting to me too! The tables have turned and this time it’s Eroan who’s rescuing Lysander and they’re hiding out together, keeping each other warm by staying super close…I’m just so glad this was a bigger focus now that the world has fully been introduced and there’s no need to further explain a bunch of other things, I’m ready for the smut! I’m ready for the romance! I’m ready for the fluff too, because both these tortured beings deserve some freakin’ happiness.
Dragons! I said this in the last review too I’m pretty sure—I don’t feel like looking back to confirm—but I love that this is so dragon-centric! It’s dragon-shifters to be exact, but either way, they’re big scaly flying lizards of death that can breathe fire! Honestly that’s enough for certain readers to want to read this
How Dark and Brutal This Story Gets! The author isn’t afraid to get to the dark and dirty content with how descriptive the more violent scenes can get. There’s also a lot of rape, which is pretty triggering content, there’s also a sex scene that’s actually kind of manipulative and was meant as a tactic to get one character to hate the other, so I know the previous review said this, but this book continues with the similar trigger warnings so there’s my PSA on the subject! It was also pretty unpredictable in a few parts that did somewhat surprise me! It was mainly battles and the big climax, but either way, I always appreciate when something raises my eyebrows and gets me to say “huh, I didn’t see that coming!”
What I Didn’t Like:
Too Many Side Characters That I Can’t Remember… I don’t know if it was just me, because I’ve been weird with books lately and my attention span has been suffering as of late, but there were quite a few side characters in this book, and half of the time I was struggling to remember who was who. It was either I wasn’t paying attention as much as I should’ve been or I simply didn’t care because I was more wrapped up in the sexual tension between Eroan and Lysander, but I struggled with this aspect of this book.
Overall, I enjoyed this book even more than the first one, but mainly because there was a ton more romance this time around. The worldbuilding and history of the world is nothing too special, but if you’re looking for some dark fantasy/smutty M/M romance that’s pretty well written, this is a great option for you! (obviously, just start with the first book obviously)
Welcome back, and can I say it’s always such a great feeling when you discover your next literary obsession while waiting for your other book obsessions to release the next book, and this series has been one on my radar for quite some time now. It’s been recommended over the last couple months in a couple Facebook groups I’m in, and even my Bookstagram friend (@Kaythebooklover, the photo above!) has started these and loves them too, so that was the final straw and I had to join the bandwagon myself!
The story revolves around twins Tori and Darcy Vega, orphans and struggling to make rent for their single bedroom apartment, but a mysterious man chases them and informs them that they’re the lost heirs to the Fae throne of his homeland and must come with them to learn how to use their magical abilities to (possibly) earn their place on the throne and prove any naysayers wrong.
Of course, things don’t go easy and they both have to face the four current heirs and their obvious disdain for having the twins swoop in and take what they believe is rightfully theirs, which leads to the main draw of this story: a bully romance.
Tension rises with all the drama and cryptic threats and sexual attraction that goes hand in hand with the hatred these characters develop as pranks take them to their limit and their will is tested, BUT there’s not even just that! There’s some dark shadow swooping over the campus, and the enemy of the Fae is back and causing a potential war down the road, and they’re getting bigger and stronger faster than we all hope to see!
I’ve only just started this book series, but it really drew me in with the dynamics of the characters and their interactions and banter and sexual tension. The first book is pretty tame, but as I read on, I can tell things are going to get spicy!
To see my review of book #1 – The Awakening – Click HERE
To see my review of book #2 – Ruthless Fae – Click HERE
To see my review of book #3 – The Reckoning – Click HERE
More reviews coming soon!
Here’s my official Fancast/Dreamcast of the Zodiac Academy series:
Tori & Darcy Vega: Sara Sampaio
Sara is a Victoria’s Secret model who I thought matched the physical description of the twins in these books. I’m honestly not sure what her acting chops actually look like, but I can certainly say she looks the part. It’s fun to imagine her tearing those boys to shreds with the epic lines that Tory gets throughout!
Caleb Altair: Michael Dean Johnson
Caleb is one of the characters I’m really drawn to, he’s showing more depth than most of the characters, and I’m very curious to see what he does later on! Michael Dean is a model and fitness influencer on Instagram and I think he was even on an MTV dating show at some point, which is no surprise, I mean….look at him!
Seth Capella: Elias Black
Seth is a very back and forth character for me….he’s outwardly the most friendly of the four heirs, but he’s also the biggest d-bag of them, at least in my opinion! He’s especially cruel to Darcy and has a weird way of showing his affection to others…but read it for yourself to see what you think. Elias is a model on Instagram and was also a contestant on a season of popular dating show, Love Island.
Darius Acrux: Alex Badia
Darius is probably my favorite of the four heirs, he’s such an asshole, but man is he hot! He’s got a temper, and he’s Mr. cool guy, big man on campus and I am such a sucker for it all, ugh……….Alex is yet again another model on Instagram, and just who I thought of when I got the physical description of this fire starter.
Max Rigel: Brandon Bell
Max is the one of the four I’ve seen the least of, but he’s part of the Sirens order, who all leech off people’s emotions and manipulate them to feeling those strong emotions in order to exploit it and use it for their own power, it all sounds like those toxic people in your life that you just need to cut off already….Brandon is quite a handsome actor whom I first discovered as Troy Fairbanks on the social satire Netflix show, Dear White People.
Professor Lance Orion: Luke Bracey
I’m not sure how I feel about Orion yet…it’s obvious he’s got a soft spot for Darcy, but he’s such a jerk to literally everyone else, it’s hard to like him a lot of the time, and he gets away with a lot of abuse despite being a teacher…Luke Bracey was in the Nicholas Sparks movie, The Best of Me, and more recently the Holidays Rom Com, Holidate.
Kylie Major: Saxon Sharbino
Saxon’s looks just scream gorgeous blonde mean girl, which pretty much sums up the character anyways, so it’s kind of perfect then! She was in an episode of Lucifer, one of the favorite shows, but she also was in the more recent release of Poltergeist too!
Sofia Cygnus: Dre Davis
Sofia is kind of the Hermione Granger of this series; she’s a total brainiac except Sofia totally undervalues herself and prefers to be a wallflower type, at least for now! Dre was in one of the later seasons of Pretty Little Liars, and someone who I think looks the part to play the BFF of the twins!
Diego Polaris: Christian Lee Navarro
Diego is a kind soul who’s like the one male friend in the friend group of most sitcoms. He doesn’t do much for me for now, but hopefully he does more as the series goes on! Christian is probably best known for being a part of the Netflix show, 13 Reasons Why.
Geraldine Grus: Meg Stalter, or Miranda May
I don’t know how well this matching actually fits, I get the impression sometimes that Geraldine is actually really tall and buff, but I follow Meg Stalter on Instagram and she’s hilarious–I recommend following her too–and I feel like she’d nail the strange exclamations that this character says whenever she’s super happy, excited, or shocked (which is most of the time anyway). Miranda May is an actress who I recently discovered who I think may physically match Geraldine’s description better!
Marguerite Helebor: Abigail Cowen
Abigail is just becoming a go-to casting choice for fiery redhead characters, because yes I totally admit I’ve casted her before on other series, but whatever, it works for me! Based off her character in “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” on Netflix, I know she’s capable of playing the “mean girl” role, so that’s my justification!
Principal Nova: Glenn Close
I’m not sure how accurate this choice for me is, and for the life of me I don’t even remember if there’s anything really said about Nova’s physical description, but I could totally see Glenn Close being in the Head Mistress role for a fantasy setting like Solaria!
Milton Hubert: Will Poulter
Anyone remember that awkward kid in “We’re the Millers?” Well, I totally see him being this minor character who enjoyed tormenting the twins when they first got to Zodiac Academy. Sure, he doesn’t have an actual unibrow…but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t have a fake one put on in the makeup chair if this was to be turned into an actual show or movie series.
Professor Washer: Timothy Olyphant
Before I typed out my little explanations for my choices, a “lovely” person by the name of Bri gave me a rude response as to how bad of a choice this person thought this was…yeah, I’m being petty and I’m calling her out…but I’ve watched the “Scream” movies quite a lot over the years as I’m a fan of that horror franchise, and as I’ve watched “Scream 2” to be exact, and without giving too much away, that’s partially why I think he’d be a good choice for Professor Washer! He’s described as being an attractive guy despite how creepy he is, so thats the reasoning behind this, NOT THAT I NEED TO DEFEND MYSELF ON MY OWN BLOG…
Professor Astrum: Conrad Ricamora
Again, I don’t know how accurate this choice is, as I don’t remember exactly how Professor Astrum is described, but Conrad is 42 years old, he’s on “How to Get Away With Murder,” and he’s kind of just who I pictured playing this character!
Francesca: Emily VanCamp
Francesca is a badass female who’s in Solaria’s version of the FBI, and is able to really kick major butt when she needs to! After seeing Emily in the “Captain America” movies, I could definitely see her being a good choice in playing this character if this series was made into a show/movie, and thats what a fancast is supposed to be!
Lionel Acrux: Patrick Wilson
Patrick Wilson is an attractive dude, he could get it and is actually closer to “daddy goals” than a good of the men who get that recognition in my opinion! In “Aquaman” starring Jason Mamoa, he had his hair dyed blonde and wore this darker armor throughout, and for some reason that just made me think of him as Lionel when the author’s told us that Darius’s father was handsome and had blonde hair!
Gabriel Nox: Tyler Hoechlin
Obviously Tyler Hoechlin would need a wig for this role, so yeah…I do know Gabriel is described as having longer hair, I didn’t forget that…but lets remember Orlando Bloom and how he was Legolas in “Lord of the Rings” ….I’m pretty sure his hair wasn’t naturally that blonde or that long, so there you have it! The power of Hollywood makeup, and Tyler is a pretty decent actor to top it off, so there’s my justification for this choice.
Xavier Acrux: Matthew Daddario, or Jacob Elordi
I personally see Matthew Daddario more as Xavier, but I could see Jacob Elordi also playing the character too! I can’t remember if Xavier is described as being tall like Jacob is, but I feel like age-wise he fits the bill and not taking his height into consideration, he kind of matches the physical description….I think?
Clara Orion: Violett Beane
I’ll be honest, I was having a hard time picturing anyone for this character, and I saw someone suggest this actress somewhere either on the mycast website or Tumblr, but I think she looks the part! I totally agree with this choice and am adding it to mine.
Mildred Canopus: Billie Lourd
Now since “Bri” also called me out on this one, I’m going to continue to be petty and explain this one. I am by no means calling Billie Lourd ugly for fancasting her as Mildred. I’m pretty sure no actor/actress/model/etc. actually looks like how Mildred is described in the books, but lets go back to that Hollywood makeup idea and how these physical qualities can be added on in the makeup chair before shooting! Ralph Fiennes doesn’t look like Voldemort in real life, right? Did Jason Isaacs really have long blonde hair as Lucious Malfoy, again NO! Seeing Billie’s characters in “Scream Queens” and the Cult season of “American Horror Story” are what made me think she’d be a good choice to be this character!
Rosalie Oscura: Tristin Mays
I made a choice for this character because while I haven’t read them yet, I do know this character makes appearances in other books that take place in Solaria. Tristin Mays has been seen in “The Vampire Diaries” for a short while, and is even in the “McGyver” reboot that’s come out in recent years too!
Professor Highspell: Constance Wu
She’s the star of “Crazy, Rich Asians,” but I’ve heard Constance has been known to have a big head and be a total diva on sets, so that made this a quick choice for me when Professor Highspell shows up later in the book series!
Tyler: Chris Wood
I honestly couldn’t remember what exactly Tyler’s physical features are, like he could have blonde hair for all I know, but that doesn’t mean Chris couldn’t get highlights if that true anyways…I actually loved him as Kai in “The Vampire Diaries,” so thats where I got the idea for this fancasting choice!
Hamisch Grus: John C. Reilly
John C. Reilly totally has that big guy who’s a total goofball style of humor–I mean, have you watched “Step Brothers” or “Talladega Nights?”–but I could totally see him playing the role of Geraldine’s father!
That’s all for now! As I read on in the series, I plan to add more characters and my fancasts for them as I meet them in the books and get a sense of who they could be. Be sure to come back to this page as time moves forward and I finish more of the books! I’m currently up to finishing book 6, and haven’t finished book 7 quite yet! If anything, I’ll probably wait until Book 8 to update all at once to see if any more characters really need to be added.
This series is a DARK FANTASY intended for mature readers. While Silk & Steel is a love story, it is not for everyone. It is not categorized on Amazon, and not sold as m/m romance. It DOES feature a strong m/m LOVE STORY that develops over three books. Silk & Steel features a gay dragon shifter, a bisexual elf, and adult themes. There is triggering content that some readers may find distressing, including implied incest, abuse, violence, dubious consent, and on-page sex. None of these instances are gratuitous. There is heterosexual sex and gay sex. The intense and star-crossed relationship between the two male leads develops over three books.
…When a blurb has this included within describing what the story is about, it really raises your eyebrows at what you may or may not be getting into! Now, the question for you is this: are you someone who immediately turns away from something like this, or does it pique your interest even further? Based off the fact that this is another one of my reviews, I bet you can guess what my answer was.
For anyone who’s looking for a dark fantasy to read, I would definitely say to take this warning extremely seriously, because while I was only more curious about this book, I can recognize that the content within this story can be extremely triggering for more sensitive readers, and this story is NOT for everyone! Yes, there is a M/M love story storyline that is what initially drew me in, but it’s a small aspect that intertwines with a lot of emotional torment, rape, assault, torture, and even implied incest that’s a lot of heavy material to take in all within one book! Seriously, this book goes further with it than even HBO’s Game of Thrones or even Spartacus from STARZ.
Besides all that carnality and absolutely vicious material, what really surprised me was an actually epic war/battling kingdoms style plot that developed. Don’t ask me to name any of the kingdoms back to you, but basically it’s a Fantasy world that Elves, Humans, and Dragon-Shifters. The Elves and Humans have been taken over and oppressed by the Draconic empire, but there are small groups of rebels from both races that are gathering supplies in order to make a stand against the dragons.
Besides sex & violence, the themes of trauma, acceptance & belonging, and even forbidden love make for an actually gripping and action packed tale between two unlikely enemies-turned-lovers: an Elf assassin named Eroan, and a lonely Dragon Prince named Lysander.
Eroan is courageous, stubborn, noble, natural born leader for his tribe. He’s a warrior through-and-through, but his troupe of assassins get captured by the dragons and he becomes the only survivor, and thus becomes a prisoner, which is where he meets Lysander, the younger Dragon Prince.
Lysander is a character your heart will break for because of all the pain he’s had to deal with in his lifetime. His mother and brother have tried to kill him several times because they consider him “broken” for his sexuality, and think he’s weak because he’s not a heartless murderer like they are. Luckily, they’ve been unsuccessful and Lysander has become the greatest warrior under his mother’s rule. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop them from still believing he’s a useless waste of space. He’s been an outcast and the runt of the litter for all he’s known, but lately he’s been absolutely sick of it, and there’s a fire threatening to explode before you know it, no pun intended.
I would agree with the author when she says it’s not a romance title. There’s attraction and sexual acts that happen, but there’s so much pain, suffering, and violence occurring all around that romance feels like too soft of a word to describe it. The love story that’s developing between those two main characters grows in an intriguing way in the sense that they feel a kindred connection to each other that grows to a reluctant mutual respect, and of course, pure lust that may or may not being blooming into deeper feelings of love. There’s still some unsettling instances of rape and death surrounding it all, so it’s not rainbows and unicorns and happily ever afters, far from it.
The world-building was so-so with not much description in the cities/kingdoms and major landmarks, but luckily there wasn’t much mentioned in that regard to kind of save it. There’s some history with the three types of people that’s revealed in a way that’s not info-dumped. I was majorly confused by the point when one character runs into a certain group, it happens around the 60-75% of the book; it felt so randomly placed into the story and was a strange wave within the pacing, but hopefully it gets explained better in the next book. There’s a surprising amount of sub-categories within even just the Dragon empire, and it features different species that make appearances in the story. There’s major dissent that is evident within both the Dragons and even the Elves, which is surprising since you usually figure Elves are all entirely on the same page.
There are plenty of questions that popped up while reading, but I have to remember this is only the first book in a series, so hopefully that means so much more gets revealed as I keep reading on!
What It’s About:
The Official Blurb:
The Dragon Queen’s reign is one of darkness and death. Humans have vanished under the rubble of their world and if the queen has her way, elves will be next.
Eroan, one of the last elven assassins, lives for one purpose: kill the queen.
He would have succeeded if not for her last line of defense: Prince Lysander. Now, captured and forced into the queen’s harem, Eroan sees another opportunity. Why kill just the queen when he can kill them all? It would be simple, if not for the troubled and alluring prince. A warrior, a killer, and something else…, something Eroan finds himself inexplicably drawn to.
Trapped in a life he despises, Lysander knows his time is running out.
If the queen doesn’t kill him for his failures, her enemies will. There’s nothing left to live for, until an elf assassin almost kills him. A stubborn, prideful, fool of an elf who doesn’t know when to quit. An elf who sparks a violent, forbidden desire in Lysander.
If Lysander can’t save himself, maybe he can save the elf and maybe, just maybe… one stubborn elf will be enough to bring down the queen before she kills them all.
Duty demands they fight for their people. Love has other plans...
What I Liked:
The Lust/Love between Lysander and Eroan! It’s definitely not a romance, per say, but the attraction that builds between these two characters is certainly a noteworthy aspect of this story. It’s pretty erotic in some areas, heartbreaking in others, but one scene in particular stood out a lot to me. Basically, to the other characters, Eroan is about to be assaulted and raped by Lysander, who is not happy about it. He actually has feelings for the captured Elf, and being forced upon the Queen’s captive is the last thing he wants. He leans in and whispers an apology only Eroan can hear, but surprise…..Eroan whispers back “Don’t be.” It may be incredibly creepy or perverted of me, but I found that kind of hot! I mean, at least it was consensual!
Dragon-Shifters! I’d never read a book with these types of characters. I absolutely love any stories with dragons/wyverns/dragon-riders/etc. so to have humans who can change into the flying, fire-breathing beasts was something new for me that I really enjoyed!
MVP Character: Lysander! By far my favorite character so far, my heart goes out for him and all that he experiences just in this first book. Anyone else would’ve given up with all that he’s been through, but still he rises above it all and becomes a better person because of it. He’s never felt like he’s belonged, and has been called broken and useless by his own family, who by the way, has tried to kill him on several occasions as a quick reminder! Seriously hoping the author throws him a couples bones this next book because Lysander deserves some happiness in my opinion!
What I Didn’t Like:
The Human World…What a random introduction into this story, and it wasn’t really explained as to how it is the way that it is. I know that justification doesn’t make a whole lot of sense without more context, but I don’t want to spoil it for readers. All I will say is it happens at about the 60-75% mark in the story.
Homophobia…Poor Lysander deals with it from his mother and even older brother amongst the Dragons. Luckily, they’re the only people that really show any of it, everyone literally could care less about that sort of thing, but anyone who’s in the queer community who’s had a hard home life like that growing up knows how hard and traumatizing that can be!
Overall, I was actually really surprised at how much I liked this title! Besides all the sex, violence, and torture, the plot actually got pretty intense in the sense of it feeling very similar to an epic battle happening in a show like Game of Thrones! There are some dark occurrences with rape and assault and torture, but if you’re someone who watched GoT in its entirety, it’s not necessarily anything you haven’t seen before, this story is just higher up on the gay male/male romance factor. With that said, it’s not like anyone can really say they enjoyed those moments, but it’s understandable that some readers would rather avoid that triggering content. It’s not for everyone, so definitely take the author’s warning within the blurb!
I’d recommend this title to anyone who likes M/M romance, and if you really liked The Captive Prince trilogy by C.S. Pacat; I think they have a very similar vibe in the first book introducing a very ominous vibe with a lot of violence and sex involved to shock readers but then turns into an epic tale to keep your attention!
This book was one that had me up extremely late—like 3 or 4 in the morning—and has a dramatic cliffhanger of an ending, so much that I groaned into my pillow and immediately purchased a copy of the next book in this series to get on that ASAP! the forbidden/star crossed lovers aspect of the story with the two male main characters is tearing me apart because the author constantly throws things in their way to keep each other just out of reach, and ugh………….it’s torture for me too!
I do have some other titles I need to read first because I have a reader friend/coworker named Erika who I make deals with to have us read books that we pick for each other. If she wants me to read a certain book, I make sure she knows I have a title for her too so we can get what we both want out of it and to be able to talk about yet ANOTHER book we’ve both read. If you don’t have a reading buddy like that, I highly recommend it because one of the worst things a reader can suffer from is being absolutely obsessed with a book/series but having no one to talk about it with in person!
It took me many moons, many breaks, and many other books in between, but I felt accomplished when I finished this behemoth of a Fantasy novel. Now, was the book as incredible as I hoped for it to be?…
Honestly, I find it hard to say…
There were quite a lot of parts of the story that I enjoyed immensely, some more than others, but I felt as though the book needed a little more editing done as in it maybe needed to be condensed because this book was long…so so long, and I felt like it didn’t need to be. There were quite a lot of high-octane, important moments that pique your interest, but with that comes a lot of slower moments within the four intertwining stories that may or may not be a real haul to cross over, and it felt like because of that the more exciting parts of the story fell flat because they couldn’t entirely hold up the weight those slower scenes gave us.
I will also say that when I started this book back in April 2019, I had no idea it was going to take me until October to fully finish it. The reason behind that was because those slower moments made me have to take breaks from it. The excessiveness made my eyes travel to other books to read in between sessions, and it was like I had to work my way up to getting back into this book. I look at other reviews, at least the ones that are glowing, and scratch my head at how those people managed to zoom through this large book in three days or less…
I didn’t hate it, and there are plenty of parts of it that I really had a lot of fun reading! The dragons and wyverns, even a new creature called an Ichneumon, the slow (literally so effing slow) burn romance, and I really enjoyed quite a lot of the characters. It’s like I said though, I think the author tried to do too much all within this book, that with inconsistent pacing that made it feel like the plot got lost a few times in the middle (or maybe just went off on a tangent too many times) that made the book not start to really interest me until about pages 450-500, and made me not enjoy this title as much as I could have.
Believe me, I am disappointed about that too…
What It’s About:
There’s an ancient evil that rose almost a thousand years ago; an enormous fire-breathing dragon known as “The Nameless One.” He was the king of all dragons and wyrms, and with his army of other fire-breathing creatures, he was destined to destroy the whole world in his raging flame and end life as we all know it. Miraculously, he was defeated and imprisoned deep beneath the ocean, with a myth that so long as there’s a descendent on the throne of Virtudom of the one that ended his tyranny, the dragon-king would never rise again.
Almost a thousand years later, The lands of the east and west are tense and isolated from each other; the reason being that there are different legends of how The Nameless One was actually defeated. The West believed a single man with a magical sword was the hero, while the east believe there water-dragons banded together and defeated their enemy. It caused tensions to rise, and for any alliance between them to end, and have shut their gates of entry with the east terrified of a draconic plague, and the west for thinking the east as heretics and “wyrm-lovers” for revering their water-dragons as gods, along with the possibility of them being allies with The Nameless One.
The story revolves around four main characters as they travel all over the world as rumors begin to stir that the king of dragons may once again ascend from his prison and lay havoc upon them all once again.
Tané has trained her whole life to becoming a high-level dragon rider in the East, but when a strange circumstance presents itself in front of her the night before her coronation ceremony, it causes her to make a choice that could ruin all the work she’d done, and all that she’d sacrificed to get there be for nothing…
Ead Duryan may live inside the walls of court, but she couldn’t possibly feel more like an outsider. As a lady-in-waiting, she keeps a watchful eye over the queen, Sabran Berethnet, who is the descendent of the one they believed to have vanquished The Nameless One. As threats draw near and shadows dance in every corner, Ead must use forbidden magic in order to assure no harm comes to Sabran in the dark times ahead…
Lord Arteloth “Loth” Beck, who is a close friend in Sabran’s court, is banished and sent on a dangerous quest in order to find answers, but finds more than he could’ve imagined…
Niclays Roos, former alchemist for Queen Sabran and her court, has been exiled in the East for many years, making him vain and bitter in his old age, but ends up on an unexpected journey for answers, justice and retribution…
What I Liked:
The Dragons! I never tire of reading books with dragons (or wyverns) within the story. By the way, shout out to the author for knowing the difference between the two! Surprisingly, not as many people know the difference, Google it if you’re one of those people…
The Diverse Cast of Characters! Representation matters, and that is a mantra the author must’ve told themselves as they created the cast of characters within this story. We’ve got almost all ethnicities involved, and even a good amount of LGBTQ+ characters are represented, two of them are of the four protagonists this story follows.
The Slow-Burn F/F Romance! A major highlight of this book is how you watch a relationship start from literally nothing and experience how it develops into an uneasy alliance, to friendship, and then a romantic relationship. It was done so well, and between two important & complex female characters too! Yes, that’s right: a slow burn LGBTQ+ F/F romance!
There’s Feminism Up The Wazoo! If people thought that Game of Thrones was feminine empowerment, think again; this title puts that comparison up in smoke. Every female is a strong, fierce lady in ancient times, even amongst the male characters and fiery demons of the sky coming to cause a lot of chaos. Also worth noting is how these all these powerful women are in high positions of power, which is surprisingly so rare for a fantasy novel!
The Lady Of The Woods Shocking Twist! There’s a mysterious legend behind a witch known simply as “The Lady of the Woods” and seemed like a story that was used to frighten little kids to stay out of the forest at night. ***Mild Spoiler Alert***She’s real, and she plays a bigger role than you’d first think. At around the 500 page mark, a shocking twist is revealed and added some pretty brow-raising news that changes what everyone in this story was lead to believe their whole lives! It. Was. Awesome! Going off of that, there were plenty of other twists throughout the story, and they were fun, but they weren’t anything earth shattering or *gasp* worthy; I’d say this specific twist is the only one that got a big reaction out of me, and the reason behind that is because to me, it was the only one that felt like the author had it planned out before she even started her first draft, when she planned out all the major story beats. It wasn’t randomly placed or added for pure shock value, no, it changed the landscape of the story, and revealed the opposite of what was known as the “truth” was actually a lie for a very long time.
What I Didn’t Like:
The Book Moves Incredibly Slow…After the initial set-up, the book moves at a much slower pace than I’d anticipated. It’s rich and exuberant with the world building and character development, but when other reviewers on Goodreads say things like “Just stick with it, it gets so much better around 70% in”…Okay, a book SHOULD NOT take that long to finally get interesting…especially a book the size of this one…the book is gargantuan and could cause some major damage if used as a weapon.
TMI With The Worldbuilding…This kind of goes off #1, but consider this more specifically towards the world building done in this novel; while part of me wants to commend the author for going so in-depth with all the history, the different cultures, the history and the legends, the languages, and of course the dragons…it just felt like some of it was a gigantic info dump that made the story so much slower to get through. Maybe it was all important to some readers, but to me, it felt like up to 200 pages could’ve been taken out; I didn’t need so much information on literally every single city they visited or the history of the crown in one of the kingdoms, especially if they were only a part of the story for one chapter.
The Confusing Gender Politics…So while I loved the females with power in the Queendom, part of me was confused by the way their political systems were set up. My impression of some of the lands had the same set up as the same ole way as traditional male-dominated courts we feel familiar with in a plethora of other fantasy. It felt like it was supposed to be a polished and ready to be another chauvinistic, sexist society, but it simply wasn’t…it was just female instead. What my complaint about this is why have a female dominated rule be so similar to that of a male reign? Why not switch up the rules of how the court rules, how the royalty reigns? I felt like the author could’ve made the story a little more interesting if she maybe flipped the normalized, familiar societal culture of a fantasy kingdom on us and created something new and different.
An Ending Like Season 8…What’s super ironic about the ending is that it actually felt so rushed and condensed…UNLIKE LITERALLY THE REST OF THE BOOK. It wasn’t a terrible climax, but I was still shaking my head as it ended and thought “That’s it?!?” It was squeezed in to make sure it was there, to reassure we get an ending, but maybe if the author took my advice and condensed the overall book, maybe she would’ve had either more time or more space to make it more memorable. Sloppy pacing in my opinion. (And yes, I’m referring to the final season of Game of Thrones if no one has caught that by now)
A story with a rich and complex world full of mystique and wonder, and female empowerment in almost a surplus amount that makes it feel fresh, new, and exciting addition to the fantasy genre; I was disappointed that I didn’t enjoy this title as much as I’d hoped I would. In my opinion, the author maybe needed to have spent less time on their world-building, and maybe more time on tightening up the plot to possibly condense the intimidating size of this standalone novel.
The characters are the big highlight rewarded to those who dare lift this book off the shelf like a literary King Arthur and Excalibur in order to open it’s pages; they are complex, engaging and well-developed as they travel over land and sea and move the story at it’s inconsistent pace. I recommend this to anyone who loves dragon-centric fantasy, anyone looking for a well written female/female slow-burn romance, or someone who’s just looking for some badass, powerful female characters trying to save the world, and that I’m seriously not exaggerating on! Just because I may not have enjoyed it doesn’t mean it’s not worth looking into for yourself; the book has a lot of positive reviews which makes it incredibly worthwhile to a lot of readers! I just don’t want a book that grabs my attention at the halfway mark!